Photo by Sandra Cortez Photography
PASO ROBLES – Wine Country Theatre began presenting an intimate production of a story about two ex-lovers confronting their past relationship in “Annapurna,” a play written by Sharr White, at the Park Ballroom. Showings will continue until Sunday, Oct. 8.
The Park Ballroom, with its 18-foot ceiling and renovated stage from the 1900s, in the heart of downtown Paso Robles, offers a unique setting: comfortable upholstered chairs and round tables where theatre-goers can watch the play while sipping local wine and snacking on cheese and cheesecake. “Annapurna” was written as a one-act play, but Wine Country Theatre added an intermission for mingling and refreshments.
“They’re going to be fascinated by the quality of the work — the professional production value including the set, the lighting, brilliant acting and storytelling,” said Cynthia Anthony, Executive Director of Wine Country Theatre. She suggests coming an hour early to enjoy the downtown beforehand or to have a glass of wine down below at F. McLintocks Saloon before the performance.
Chameleon Production founders and married couple Dana and Jenny Shaheen, who have produced big, lavish musical extravaganzas staged at the Clark Center in Arroyo Grande, have chosen to depart from their usual fare to produce at a smaller venue, collaborating with Wine Country Theatre. Their latest play, “Annapurna,” refers to both the mountain in the Himalayas and to the Ulysses character in James Joyce’s adaptation of Homer’s “Odyssey.”
Dana Shaheen directs the two-person play. Tom Ammon is featured as the character “Ulysses” while Jenny Shaheen stars as “Emma” in the production.
“She is very strong, but also very human,” Shaheen said. “She comes across, initially, as a little uptight and you tend to wonder what it is that draws her the character who plays her ex-husband. The more she reveals herself, at her core, she’s just a very human person with strong feelings for him – feelings of loyalty – feelings of love. She wants what everybody wants, which is to have that bond and that connection with somebody, but she kind of puts on a facade that she’s tougher than that and maybe doesn’t need it.”
Emma is the urbane, often fierce New Englander who tracks down her ex-husband Ulysses — the cowboy poet — after leaving him and disappearing with their 5-year-old son 20 years ago, finding him living in an off-the-grid, dilapidated mobile home in Paonia, Colorado. The set building crew, especially the artistic set designer Dana Shaheen, built the set old trailer from pieces of actual RV trailers salvaged from his wife’s family business: the Trailer Hitch in Nipomo, and the entire play is set within it. Being that the Park Ballroom does not have the typical backstage roll-up door that helps with the building of sets, each and every piece of material had to be carried in and out of normal-sized doors, quite a feat for the crafty and resourceful community theatre group.
The drama is the darkly comical conversations and interactions between the two ex-lovers, as they travel the smart, heartfelt ups and downs of their relationship for what appears to be a final reckoning.
Jenny Shaheen said the first time she read Sharr White’s script she was blown away.
“He just has the ability to write from a very real and honest place,” she said. “I feel like his dialogue is not only very relatable for the actor, but also for the audience. He has a very unusual talent of taking you to the brink of something emotionally and then diffuses it with humor in a way that catches you off guard – you didn’t know you really needed the reprieve. For an actor it really makes it like a roller coaster. You go up the hill and then the next thing you know you’re going down. That’s pretty much what I fell in love with – his writing style. I feel like a lot of people have come away saying, ‘It hit me in a place I wasn’t expecting.’ Anything that make you feel like that is good theatre.”
Tickets are $25 for general admission and $15 for students. The Park Street Ballroom is located at 1232 Park Street (above F. McLintocks Saloon) in Paso Robles. Contact winecountrytheatre.com or call 805-610-0786 for more information and tickets.
Fri., Sept. 29: 7:30 p.m.
Sat., Sept. 30: 7:30 p.m.
Sun., Oct. 1: 2 p.m.
Fri., Oct 6: 7:30 p.m.
Sat., Oct. 7: 7:30 p.m.
Sun., Oct. 8: 2 p.m.
You may contact Reporter Beth Giuffre at [email protected] for questions and/or feedback.